Music

Matt Berry Should Write a COVID-19 Anthem

Hello, seller? Yes, please, put all of it on Berry.
Illustration: by Carolyn Figel

These are onerous instances, and when issues get actually darkish, we at Vulture wish to double down on the issues which can be nonetheless able to bringing us happiness. That’s why we’re working this recurring column, which serves as half-celebration and half-brainstorm for somebody we’re persistently delighted to see on our screens: the beloved British performer of stage and display Matt Berry. He’s finest recognized for exhibits like Toast of LondonThe IT Crowd, and What We Do within the Shadows, however we’re assured that a efficiency by Berry would spruce up all types of movie and TV tales, large and small. 

So a few instances a month, we’ll be utilizing this space to suggest new, often out-of-the-box alternatives or roles for Mr. Berry. We are assured that ought to he ever discover this column, he’ll discover it each complicated and mortifying.

It’s onerous to know what to do with the sensation of spring arriving in 2021. Flowers are blooming, and robins are hopping round on inexperienced lawns. Vaccination charges throughout the United States climb greater each day, and all over the place there’s a tentative feeling of hope. Maybe this summer time or fall we will really feel a little, tiny bit higher. Maybe we will get again a minimum of among the issues we’ve missed a lot over the previous year. But it’s such a tender, unsure feeling. There are every kind of scary threats nonetheless lurking — variants, long-term signs, entrenched vaccine hesitance, racism, and violence. And we’ve lost so many individuals, a lot of our lives. We’ve lost far, excess of we’ve had time to course of and even absolutely depend but. What ought to we do with all these feelings? How can we start to precise them?

There isn’t any single answer to these questions. There might be many memorials and plenty of tales that also must be informed. One factor that may assist, although, is an anthem. It must be a music we will all sing to recollect this time, to honor it and mourn it, but additionally to have fun the hope that we’d have the ability to transfer previous it.

I’m principally imagining one thing like “We Are the World,” however much less grandiose, a little extra wounded, and 100% much less Michael Jackson-y. And I do know simply the person for the job. It’s Matt Berry.

We consider Berry primarily as a comedian actor, however if you watch almost any interview with him, it’s fairly clear that Berry sees himself as a musician who occurs to be an actor generally. He’s not a voluble interviewee in most circumstances, however that modifications when somebody asks about his most up-to-date musical work — it’s the one factor he clearly loves to speak about, and if you happen to take a look at his career, it additionally looks as if what he desires to spend most of his time doing. He wrote all of the music for Snuff Box and Toast of London, he’s recorded six studio albums, and he frequently excursions with a number of bands. He even writes and information TV theme music!

You know the Dancing With the Stars theme? With a man yelling “Hey!” and a twanging guitar theme? That guitar is being performed by Matt Berry. The man yelling “Hey”? ALSO MATT BERRY.

We’ve lined Berry’s musical skills on this column already, but it surely’s virtually at all times been in service of explaining why he’s excellent for a completely different function. Berry must be Santa for a lot of causes, together with that he wrote a rock opera concerning the start of Christ. Berry ought to play a lot of the roles in Phantom of the Opera, partly as a result of he clearly has the chops, and Berry must be a Twitch streamer to share extra of his music with the world. But Berry ought to write a COVID anthem as a result of his music has precisely the best mix of pop-melodic talent, wall-of-sound manufacturing fashion, and wistful, considerate sweetness to create one thing that might be actually pretty for a project like this.

Consider “Take My Hand,” from Berry’s 2009 album Witchazel. It begins with an extremely catchy piano riff, a melody that’s instantly simple to hum however can also be already crammed out with full chords. The melody repeats, now with the background crescendo of a super-lush cymbal build, after which once more when the music lastly arrives on the refrain, now crammed much more with percussion, guitar, and horn part. Berry layers monitor after monitor on high of his voice, creating this sense of dozens of individuals all singing collectively. It is large and triumphant — anthemic, even — but it surely’s additionally restrained, a little uncertain. “So take my hand,” Berry sings. “We’ll disappear to a pub that’s not too far from here.” The music is big, the singer is pleading, however the stakes are very small.

Something too on the nostril or too direct about what the final year has felt like goes to overlook the mark. Nobody on this earth desires to shout together with a music known as “Social Distance,” or one which tries to rhyme “COVID” with “lid” or “skid” or “kid” or “slid.” But one thing like this — one thing catchy, singable, relatable, and candy, with a large sound — may actually hit the spot, particularly if it’s additionally layered with craving for small, easy issues. And Berry has written tons of songs like this. Witchazel is my favourite of his oeuvre, however he has a actual penchant for remodeling large, standard sounds and turning them a little odd, simply a bit stranger and extra ear-catching.

Berry additionally has a historical past of constructing music that includes broad, big-scale enter. He wrote a Christmas song a number of years in the past that concerned asking individuals from all around the U.Okay. to ship in audio of themselves singing the refrain. That strategy may additionally be too apparent for a COVID anthem, but it surely factors to Berry’s curiosity in music for everybody, music that includes many experiences and plenty of voices. What could possibly be higher for a music written to commemorate a time after we’ve been so alone, a year when singing collectively was not simply tough, however extremely harmful?

We want a COVID anthem, one thing that can at all times be related to this time, a approach to encapsulate all our emotions of grief and worry and hope. And, sure, there are many artists who may do it. If Beyoncé’s out there, as an example, I feel she’d sing a nice one. But a Berry anthem can be actually particular. He likes to steadiness his voice within the total manufacturing so it turns into virtually a part of the background, one small piece of a large, clamorous complete. What a pretty music it could possibly be, particularly when it’s secure for us all to sing it collectively.

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